Students help restore habitat along Choctawhatchee Bay

Special to The Log

As the school year begins to draw to an end, students across Okaloosa and Walton counties are also wrapping up a year-long restoration project. Throughout the 2016-2017 school year, around 2,300 students at 22 elementary schools participated in Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance’s Grasses in Classes Program.

Grasses in Classes encourages students to develop an interest in the local environment by growing shoreline grasses at their school. Throughout May, these students will see the hands-on, science program full circle by taking a field trip to Choctawhatchee Bay. Rotating through stations, students will not only explore the habitat they learned about all year, but will also plant their smooth cordgrass at a restoration site.

“The field trips provide a perfect opportunity for students to connect their science education to their local environment,” said Brittany Tate, education director for CBA, “The experience students’ gain encourages them to become an active part of the Choctawhatchee Bay watershed.”

CBA provided teachers the equipment and materials required to grow shoreline grasses at their schools. In addition to maintaining salt marsh nurseries, students participated in monthly activities administered by an educational teamed staffed through an AmeriCorps partnership. Each lesson was correlated to meet Florida’s science standards, and focused on the relationship between shoreline grasses and the health of the Choctawhatchee Bay.

Throughout May, CBA will host 25 field trips at eight different restoration sites along the bay. The students will plant close to 2,500 shoreline grasses by the end of the month, which in return, will help to slow erosion and provide a critical, intertidal habitat.